Tuesday, 17 May 2011

memory, and forgetting IV

But I began then to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another. You don’t look back along time but down through it, like water. Sometimes this comes to the surface, sometimes that, sometimes nothing. Nothing goes away.

From Cat's Eye, by Margaret Atwood

Rereading Cat's Eye after twenty years revealed my own distortions of memory. And exposed perhaps memories, and a longing, too, I think, maybe for something that didn't exist... Also, I was surprised to discover the forgotten source of a number of memories of moments, that had bedded down in my mind - memories that had become "detached from any context", of, in this case, this novel. But that retained a well formed potency in my mind. They had become my stories.

But more than that...

Over the years I had recommended this book to a number of people, not for a recollection of the plot, the narrative, the writing, which had become "forgotten" - but rather on a more diffuse feeling that the book encapsulated the feeling of Canada - of a happy, if somewhat melancholy childhood. So they might understand better my memories of Canada - - - -

- - - - but I was shocked to discover on rereading that no, the book actually explored a traumatic childhood in Canada, of a little girl growing up, and an artist grown up looking back, struggling to come to terms with her past - to free herself of her past.

As the woman in the story had suppressed her childhood memories, I had suppressed the real story of this book, and its echoes of my childhood. And perhaps then the import of my own childhood... I wonder - perhaps twenty years ago, I wasn't ready to confront my own self that this book urged. But I must have recognised myself, none the less, on some level.

And so I'm left with the stories of two late forty something artists, in differing degrees fictional, coming to terms with their past.

And Canada itself - Edmonton? It at least allowed me the escape into beauty, of wheat fields, and blue skies, and snowscapes - to fill me with wonder, despite being adrift.

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